27 Jan 2010
I am convinced that there are certain experiences from your childhood that define whether you like winter or not. I am a lover of everything winter. I can thank my hockey player dad for that. For my brother and I, winter had its own culture with unique customs and rituals that included a backyard ice skating rink.
The first snowfall of the season, my dad would unveil his latest collection of sleds, skates and skis that he had gathered at tag sales. In the garage he would fix up his finds for all the neighborhood kids. His goal was to get all the kids on the block to love winter. Then he would haul out four long wooden two by fours and a plastic liner and water our backyard to make a skating rink. If we lived in a higher elevation, I am sure he would have created a ski slope and a rope tow to tower over the rink. As it was, it was quite unusual in my New York suburban neighborhood to have an ice rink in the backyard.
Some of my favorite memories are of my dad all bundled up very late in the evening hosing down our backyard ice rink like he was watering prized roses. I remember Dad was overly eager to get up early in the morning after a snowfall to shovel the rink. Then he would set off to the more important task of clearing the driveway. For the kids, our reward was all the afterschool exercise we could get and unlimited hot chocolate.
Those fond memories are laced with embarrassing ones too. Some not so cherished teenage moments. Don’t most embarrassing things happen to teenagers? I was mortified when I found out my dad would greet my male friends at the front door with a ruler to measure the size of my friend’s feet for skates. Then he would rummage through the skate box and with skates and hockey sticks in hand, I would have to catch him before he would wisk the the poor boy into the backyard to “see what the kid was made of” (whether he could skate or not).
I have long since gotten over those embarrassing moments. For years, we recreated all that wintery fun in my backyard with my kids.